Bliss sees middle-aged Greg Wittle (Owen Wilson) in a dead-end job, and taking medication for a bad shoulder and other aching limbs. About to be fired, he accidentally knocks out his boss, or has he killed him? Either way, he needs to get out of there and heads for the bar across the street.
Greg works for Technical Difficulties, a company where the staff can only be heard telling coustomers on the phone, “I’m sorry you’re having technical difficulties”. Little glitches in the environment start happening, making him reg think that the world is a computer simulation. Chancing across him is the enigmatic Isabel (Salma Hayek), who somehow knows what he’s been up to, and says she feels responsible for his situation, because it’s her fault this world exists. Spooky…
About his suspicions, though, and I sometimes also feel like the world isn’t quite real, as if we’re in a Life on Mars situation. That has yet to be determined, but for Greg and what’s happened regarding his boss, Isabel wants to hide him away down a back alley “until the case closes”.
She lives off-grid in a commune-type place, which somehow has water and electricity facilities despite not paying any bills and also not exactly being hard to find (there’s a walkway overlooking it, for example!), so the police would shut that down in a day. Still, this is a movie, so I’d best not think too much.
Meanwhile, Greg’s kids – Emily (Nesta Cooper) and Arthur (Jorge Lendeborg Jr) – are struggling to keep in touch with him, and he’s constantly drawing his dream home, which may or may not just happen to feature Isabel, even before he met her. Even more spooky…
Once he realises he can control life more efficiently, everything becomes much more enjoyable to him, but in our real world, I’d always be waiting for the time when he falls.And what happens when you attempt to ‘exit the simulation’? I had expectations this would lead us into some sort of real Matrix-style world, but for him? You will see…
One odd thing is that while the two leads are good – and it’s always more pleasing to see Owen Wilson in a drama role than one of his endless comedy roles – it feels like the characters looking for this sort of life fulfilment should be in their mid-20s to early 30s, while the actors are in their early 50s. Okay, so Greg has kids in their early 20s to factor into the equation, but as I head towards my 50s, I wouldn’t expect to be attempting to live life on the streets AND find something to enjoy out of that.
That said, while watching this, I was wondering what is real and what is Memorex? And why can’t he remember what he’s being told is the real world?
Bliss is a bit odd, but I like these kind of films where you’d trying to figure out what is real when either time-travel or alternate worlds is involved.
In this case, there doesn’t feel to be a huge amount of substance to it, but it’s certainly engaging for the running time. It’s also good to see a film that does NOT ramble on over two hours when it doesn’t need to, as it’s a relatively brief 104 minutes; and it did keep me guessing until the end about how things will all turn out.
As an aside, I note that Bliss is a 15-certificate, but beyond more f-words than the four that’s allowed within a 12-certificate, I can’t see anything that wouldn’t be allowed in that lower category.
As for what it’s really about, I’ll put my thoughts in this spoiler section…
Many thanks to our friends at Amazon Prime Video for being able to check this film out.
Bliss is now on Amazon Prime Video, but isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD.
Running time: 104 minutes
Release date: February 5th 2021
Studio: Amazon Prime Video
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Anamorphic Atlas Scope, Redcode RAW 8K)
Director: Mike Cahill
Producer: James D Stern
Screenplay: Mike Cahill
Music: Will Bates
Greg Wittle: Owen Wilson
Isabel Clemens: Salma Hayek
Emily Wittle: Nesta Cooper
Arthur Wittle: Jorge Lendeborg Jr
Kendo: Ronny Chieng
Bjorn: Steve Zissis
Cameron: Josh Leonard
Doris: Madeline Zima
Chris: Bill Nye
Slavoj Zizek: Slavoj Zizek
Liang: DeRon Horton
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.